The Bronco Urban Gardens (BUG), a 2011-12 Sharks Foundation grant recipient, is a science-based educational program offered to underserved students in San Jose. Operated by Americorps members and Santa Clara University (SCU) volunteers, students from Kindergarten to 6th grade are provided lessons on agriculture and healthy eating. Recently, Sharks Foundation staff and board members took advantage of a warm June morning to visit the BUG site at Gardner Elementary School.
With the students on summer vacation, Gardner Elementary School initially seemed very quiet. However, a short trip around the corner to Willis Avenue revealed a blooming patch of land being tended to by busy little hands. Surrounded by garden tools, watering cans and hoses, students and adult volunteers were hard at work keeping the garden in tip-top shape.
Leslie Gray, Director of the Environmental Studies Institute at SCU, was happy to provide an overview of the program. Created in 2009, BUG delivers environmental education and healthy eating initiatives to at-risk communities in San Jose by bringing students outdoors and helping them to learn through experience.
There are currently four BUG gardens in the San Jose community, with the flagship garden located at SCU. In addition to the educational aspect, the gardens improve the aesthetics of the school and foster a sense of pride among the students. All grade levels participate in the maintenance of the garden and reap the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables.
On this particular morning, summer school students were learning about the life cycle and nutritional benefits of a cantaloupe. “This is a very common occurrence,” explained Sarah Yoder, one of the two staff members at the Gardner site. “When the students have snack time, they often eat items that they have helped grow in the garden.” Part of Sarah’s job is to develop lessons for the students that they can apply to their everyday lives.
For many of the students, access to fresh produce is limited since the closest grocery store can be miles away. With fast food likely the alternative, BUG strives to provide lessons that will prepare students for a lifetime of healthy eating.
For more information, please visit www.scu.edu/cas/esi/programs/bug.cfm.